Dear Labour Party, please expel me

12 Feb

Seen today on Facebook: a letter to the chair of the Labour Party from a Jewish member.

NB footnotes are my additions, not Haim Bresheeth’s

Dear Jennie Formby,

I am writing you in the wake of recent events – the expulsion of Jo Bird1 and the excellent letter by Natalie Strecker as I would like to ask you to kindly refer me to the Compliance Unit, for ‘antisemitism’ – for the reasons I detail below.

I would like to tell you about my background, in order to support my request. I am an academic, author and filmmaker, an ex-Israeli Jew who has been active for over five decades as a socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist activist. My parents were Polish Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and other camps. They endured forced onto death marches to the Third Reich after the Auschwitz camp was vacated by the SS in Mid-January 1945. My mother was freed by the British forces in Bergen-Belsen, and my father was freed by the US forces in Mauthausen. I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Italy, and arrived in Israel as a baby, during June 1948, as no European country would then accept Holocaust survivors.

I served in the Israeli Army (IDF) as a junior infantry officer, and took part in two wars, in 1967 and 1973, after which I turned into a committed pacifist. I came to study in Britain in 1972, and a short while afterwards I have learnt much about Zionism which I did not while in Israel, thus becoming an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, and an anti-Zionist activist. I was an active supporter of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as a Labour member in the 1970s and acted against racist organisations throughout my life. My films, books and articles reflect the same political views outlined here; these include a popular book on the Holocaust (Introduction to the Holocaust, with Stuart Hood, 1994, 2001 2014), among others, a BBC documentary film (State of Danger, with Jenny Morgan, BBC2, March 1988) about the first Intifada, and a forthcoming volume on the Israeli Army (An Army Like No Other, May 2020) . I have re-joined the Labour Party after decades, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the leadership, as I regained hope in promoting a progressive agenda for the party, after years of Blairism.

It is evident that my background qualifies me as an antisemite according to the Labour coda based on the flawed IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism, or rather, the weaponised version of Zionist propaganda aimed against supporters of the human and political rights of Palestinians. But I would like to add some more damning evidence, so as to make the case watertight, if I may.

Over the decades, I took part in hundreds of demonstrations against Israeli brutalities and acted against the atrocities committed by of the military occupation, in various countries – Israel, in Europe and the US. I have published articles, made films and contributed to many books and have spoken widely in a number of countries against the Israeli militarised colonisation of Palestine, the denial of any rights to most Palestinians, the severe violations of human and political rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the brutalizing impact of the IDF on Jewish Israeli society. I have also analysed the false nature of the IHRA campaign in a recent article, written from an anti-Zionist, human rights perspective. I am active in a number of political groups affiliated or close to the Labour Party, who support Palestinian rights – Jewish Voice for Labour, and Jewish Network for Palestine, of which I am a founder member.

I am aware that according to the Labour Party rules, all the above constitute what you define as antisemitism.

Personally, it is clear to me that such accusations are false and sickening, but no one asked the members on the adoption of the IHRA definition and its examples. The adopted definition makes Israel the only state in the world which one may not criticise, unless they wish to court accusations of antisemitism. To criticise the British Empire, for example, is not anti-British, and, as we speak, still allowed by Labour Party rules. To criticise the US government for its attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003 is not anti-American, and still allowed by US regulations. To criticise Israeli apartheid colonialism is not anti-Israeli, neither is it antisemitic, of course. What is antisemitic and racist are the current regulations of the party, and until they are changed, Jews and others who support Palestine have no reason to support a party which treats them in this way.2

The Labour Party regulations are what they are; However, I have no intention of stopping my activities, toning them down, or abandoning my principles in order to satisfy the twisted logic of the Labour Party. I insist on my right, indeed, on my duty as an ex-Israeli, as a Jew, as a citizen, as a socialist and last but not least, as a human being, to openly act against and criticise Israeli Apartheid and injustices, for as long as I am able to. I also believe that as a party member of what I believed to have turned into a progressive political organisation, this should be my right and duty; but I realise that my activities are against Labour Party dogma, regulation and current interests, so am accusing myself openly through this letter, and asking you to refer me to the Compliance Unit, so that justice may be done, and that I would be treated equally to my many friends who found themselves in the same predicament – Prof. Moshe Machover, Jackie Walker, Elleanne Green, Tony Greenstein, Glyn Secker, and many others faced with the Stalinist inquisitorial system developed by the Labour Party. If you are to separate the ‘good Jews’ from the ‘bad ‘ones, please include me in the latter group, as nothing in my academic output, teaching history, publication record, or political activity can support the claim that I am not an antisemite according to your rules. I demand that justice be done.

I trust that my request will be taken seriously and acted upon, with the same combination of dispatch, bigotry and prejudice showed towards other members already accused of this offence. Failure to do so will be tantamount to evidence that the criteria for judging the existence of antisemitism are not uniformly applied.

I am ready to provide all evidence which may be required by the investigators of the Compliance Unit, to prove my guilt. Please do not hesitate to ask for assistance on points which remain unclear.

Regards, Prof. Haim Bresheeth, CLP: Hornsey and Wood Green.


See also Jonathan Cook’s post today, Antisemitism threats will keep destroying Labour. For a sense of the power and reach of the Israeli lobby, and of what having a spine looks like, see this account of Rep. Betty McCollum pushing back against the notorious (check it out) AIPAC.

Those who still entertain the idea of the Guardian as a fair and honest broker on these matters are urged to contrast this piecedrearily typical of its services rendered to the weaponising of “antisemitism” – with its deafening silence here. I note the principled stand taken by Steve Bell in signing an open letter critical of his employer, and contrast it with George Monbiot’s silence. I note too that of four occurrences of Jones among the signatories, none have the prefix, Owen.

* * *

  1. On Jo Bird, see the February 11 Electronic Intifada piece, updated February 13, by Asa Winstanley – who quit the Party on February 7.
  2. See also the Morning Star interview of February 9 with another pro Palestinian Israeli, Jamie Stern-Weiner.

12 Replies to “Dear Labour Party, please expel me

  1. This is not the only issue in which the actions of Party bureaucracy and leadership candidates are seriously undermining the credibility of the Labour Party to attract voters and win elections.

    The suspension, on the basis of complaints not processed, of candidates seeking to contest NEC seats mirrors the case of Sally Gimson, picked as PPC for Bassetlaw but removed by NEC on the basis of complaints her CLP (Holborn & St Pancras) publicly said it had no knowledge of – complaints Camden New Journal says originate (at least in part) from a named source married to the head of the LP Compliance Unit. That same source applied for PPC in four seats, made the shortlist of first preference (a Northern seat far from their Mayoral seat in London) but withdrew the day before the hustings, easing the path for a Momentum candidate named as such in the Huffington Post back in March.

    That CLP had been prevented by the NEC from going through its selection process the moment its MP left the Party at the begining of the year.

    Secondly, the suspension of these candidates, and Gimson’s removal as Bassetlaw PPC by the NEC, contrasts with that same NEC and Party bureacracy allowing the pre-picked Momentum PLC in that seat to be longlisted and shortlisted despite three outstanding complaints against them. Two of which involve breaches not just of Party rules but of existing law.

    These are not the only seats where such events occurred.

    Such inconsistencies point to factional manipulation of the rules and complaints procedures in which monopoly organisations of both right (Progress) and left (Momentum) game the system to the detriment both of Party members and the chances of the Party getting elected.

    The left rightly complained for years about the parachuting into Constituencies of candidates during the Blair and Brown years, but now adopts the same tactics, even if it means throwing ordinary members under a bus.

    The matter Professor Bresheeth raises is not the only one in which senior figures in the Party, MPs and Party bureaucrats have publicly favoured setting aside principles of due process, such as the right to defence and presumption of innocence. The same figures openly say members should be expelled on the basis of allegations which, they argue, equate to guilt. Any attempt at defence by the accused, and anyone supporting them, are considered illegitimate. Going even further, they demand that the accused admit guilt and publicly name and shame themselves.

    An approach little different in effect and outcome to the kind of public trial witnessed under Stalin and Pol Pot.

    The other elephant in the room being this issue – which has already gone beyond calls for Party expulsion on the basis of allegations with nothing to substantiate them other than the subjective opinion of the accuser.

    In the world outside the Party people have lost their jobs, their right to earn a living. Elderly ladies have been contacted by the Police for the non-crime of openly stating objective scientific facts.

    Over the past century the LP and its leaders, from MacDonald and Atlee through to Wilson, Kinnock, Blair, Milliband and Corbyn have been smeared: Zinoviev’s faked letter, the Express’s Gestapo headline on Atlee; the secret army’s move against Wilson, the AS against Milliband etc.

    More often than not it works without the Party manufacturing the ammunition to undermine it’s electoral chances. And taking a stance which undermines due process is manufacturing such ammunion en masse. Because what will happen is that enough of the electorate (at least 50% in one of the above matters) will take one look at this stance and come back on doorstep and vox pops with a response not a million miles from:

    “Come again kid?”

    “You’ve done away with due process for your own members to expel them!”

    “You’re prepared to risk the rights and safety of sections of the population!”

    “You are comfortable for people to lose their jobs or be placed on a police register for having the “wrong” opinion!”

    “And you want us to give you decision making power over our lives? Pull the other one pal. It’s got bells on.”

    • Hi Anne. It occurs to me that, with even the best of the leadership candidates – RLB – falling well short of what is required, many will now be considering leaving the party they joined on the back of Corbyn’s accession.

      In which case one way of going out in style, while showing that caving in to every witch hunt by Labour right, corporate media and Israel lobby may not be quite such a safe option after all, would be a flood of letters similar to Haim’s and Natalie’s.

  2. Well, as anticipated, this approach, whatever the subject matter, is not going down well .

    Looks like a similar response is underway. For sure there is a job to do in the North to educate those who physically attack or support the physical attack on fellow comrades who identify as Trans – as occurred in this Constituency on 13th December – and to protect everyone and their rights from those genuine Transphobics. The point is, attacking your own side for taking a stance which effectively states that Lesbian rights/Gay rights/Women’s rights are also human rights is not the way to go about it. Especially when it comes wrapped up with an exclusivity which would make John Bolton blush along with a jettisioning of due process.

    At the very least its called being canny.

    It is certainly the case that any approach based on some members are more equal than others is going to sink any prospect of the Labour Party winning a raffle never mind an election.

    • Given the commonality of “antisemitism” weaponised, and “transphobia” weaponised, it’s good to see feminists responding much as Haim Bresheeth did. Is that #expelme hashtag taking off?

  3. An insight into the true nature of “Corbyn’s” Labour Party (and the scare quotes are merited) came with this comment from Tom Watson:

    “We had just won the leader and deputy leader ballots, and we were in this room on our own, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘We’ve got our party back.’ I remember thinking to myself, I’ve never really lost this party. We’re going to have a bit of fun here, Jeremy.”

    This suggests that the whole Corbyn episode was like a hollow side show – although I think that Corbyn himself was naïve in this respect. And that naivete also infected his supporters.

    And having read the Jonathan Cook piece, I can only marvel at the cool heads that writers like him can maintain regarding these issues. This “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” is the ugliest thing I’ve seen in politics (and that’s saying something!) It’s like a vat of quicksand that pulls you in and constantly twists around. And the ones who wield this weapon know full well the power they have. The Twitter congratulation from Rabbi Mirvis to Boris Johnson makes me feel physically sick. I read that and think – now THERE’S the real story!

    Perhaps the worst thing of all is that many people will allow their justifiable disgust at the hypocritical emotional blackmail of the Zionist weaponization of “anti-Semitism” to spill over into ACTUAL anti-Semitism and blame ALL Jews for this. And such a development would only delight the Zionists who will then be able to point their finger and say, “Told you so!”

    • We’ve spoken before on antisemitism and zionism feeding off one another. It’s not the only irony at play here. Another is Israeli willingness to get into bed with virulently A/S Islamists, yet another the Labour right cheering a Maidan Square ‘colour revolution’ that inflamed antisemitism – the real kind – in Ukraine.

      That many buy this poisonous twaddle on Labour’s “special problem with antisemitism” can leave us holding our heads in despair. In that respect it’s no different to the ‘turkeys voting for Xmas’ phenomenon of every general election since 1945.

      What can we do but keep on keeping on? Despair is an everpresent ‘counsellor’. Always at my side, I know he won’t go away. Most of the time I manage to ignore him. Most of the time.

      (Is there a song there, do you think?)

  4. Here’s a possible bit of silver lining: Marx spoke about dialectic by which I presume he meant that every process contains the seeds of its opposite. And when something bad reaches a peak and causes the maximum despair – that very maximum contains a certain hope.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed I felt the triumphalist celebrations throughout the Western media contained an element of hysteria which suggested a seed of unease. The main prop of the Cold War was now gone and effectively Western capitalism was on its own.

    When Corbyn – the first real Labour leader in four decades – failed, it spells the end of the illusion that the Labour Party can possibly represent the working class. The neoliberal triumph, through its very extremism, spells something possibly fatal for it.

    Similarly, the relentless blather about “anti-Semitism”, especially in view of Israeli brutality, runs the risk of alienating more and more people. One day that particular bubble may also burst.

    Always look on the bright side of life.

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